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Analytics Magazine

Inside Story: Humans vs. machines

November/December 2015

business analytics news and articles

– Peter Horner, editor

In his executive edge column in this issue of Analytics, Mike Neal, CEO of DecisionNext, poses an interesting question: “Have we grown too dependent on technology, specifically automation that makes important decisions for us?”

The decade-old analytics wave – built on the premise that data-driven decision-making is superior to good, old-fashioned gut instinct – has swept over the business world. Clearly, there is no going back as industry after industry has reaped the benefits of automation and analytics. But is there still a role for humans in the decision-making process?

Despite their biases and blind spots, humans are pretty good when it comes to nuance, the art of the deal. Writes Neal: “Computers are great at finding connections between data points, while humans are great at assigning meaning to those connections. Human experts in any given industry, therefore, are well suited for applying predictive analytics to real-world decisions.” For more on the story, see “Humans or machines.”

Speaking of humans and human resources, Chandrakant Maheshwari, a subject matter expert in the risk and regulatory practice at Genpact LLC, praises the power of human curiosity in his Forum column titled “Driving curiosity as a culture in an analytics organization.” Writes Maheshwari: “Curiosity and continuous learning have become critical qualities for the analytics professional, but the biggest challenge is knowing what to learn and where to explore.”

For our cover story, Larry Skowronek, senior vice president of product management for Nexidia, takes a look at what he describes as “one of the most interesting trends in the analytics space today”: real-time analytics. In his article “The reality of real time,” Skowronek presents four key areas – at-risk compliance, customer retention, increased sales and post-call analytics – where real-time analysis and interaction with customers results in the “best possible” business outcomes.

As I’m writing this a week before Halloween, I’m also preparing to travel to Philadelphia for the INFORMS Annual Meeting on Nov. 1-4. I’m looking forward to attending many of the technical sessions, keynote presentations and social events, along with seeing some longtime friends like Vijay Mehrotra, entrepreneur/professor and author of the “Analyze This!” column. In his latest column Vijay recalls his first trip to an INFORMS conference 25 years ago, also in Philadelphia, and how the conference and a brief chat changed his career path.

business analytics news and articles


Using machine learning and optimization to improve refugee integration

Andrew C. Trapp, a professor at the Foisie Business School at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), received a $320,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop a computational tool to help humanitarian aid organizations significantly improve refugees’ chances of successfully resettling and integrating into a new country. Built upon ongoing work with an international team of computer scientists and economists, the tool integrates machine learning and optimization algorithms, along with complex computation of data, to match refugees to communities where they will find appropriate resources, including employment opportunities. Read more →

Gartner releases Healthcare Supply Chain Top 25 rankings

Gartner, Inc. has released its 10th annual Healthcare Supply Chain Top 25 ranking. The rankings recognize organizations across the healthcare value chain that demonstrate leadership in improving human life at sustainable costs. “Healthcare supply chains today face a multitude of challenges: increasing cost pressures and patient expectations, as well as the need to keep up with rapid technology advancement, to name just a few,” says Stephen Meyer, senior director at Gartner. Read more →

Meet CIMON, the first AI-powered astronaut assistant

CIMON, the world’s first artificial intelligence-enabled astronaut assistant, made its debut aboard the International Space Station. The ISS’s newest crew member, developed and built in Germany, was called into action on Nov. 15 with the command, “Wake up, CIMON!,” by German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, who has been living and working on the ISS since June 8. Read more →



INFORMS Computing Society Conference
Jan. 6-8, 2019; Knoxville, Tenn.

INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research
April 14-16, 2019; Austin, Texas

INFORMS International Conference
June 9-12, 2019; Cancun, Mexico

INFORMS Marketing Science Conference
June 20-22; Rome, Italy

INFORMS Applied Probability Conference
July 2-4, 2019; Brisbane, Australia

INFORMS Healthcare Conference
July 27-29, 2019; Boston, Mass.

2019 INFORMS Annual Meeting
Oct. 20-23, 2019; Seattle, Wash.

Winter Simulation Conference
Dec. 8-11, 2019: National Harbor, Md.


Advancing the Analytics-Driven Organization
Jan. 28–31, 2019, 1 p.m.– 5 p.m. (live online)


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